Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Egrets: A Quick Look

Although they are called cattle egrets, you often see them in areas where there are no cattle. In a car park on the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus, for example, which is where I saw these egrets. Not a cow in sight.

Egrets are one of the most easily identifiable birds in Jamaica, with their white plumage, long legs and necks, bright yellow beaks and their distinctive walk and head movements. A pretty common sight in many parts of Jamaica.

Yet they haven’t always been here. I found this report interesting, of an early sighting by Dr T. P. Lecky of egrets among the cattle at Bodles on November 21, 1956…nearly sixty-seven years ago…

I am so used to seeing egrets around that I hadn’t really thought about their origin and that they haven’t always been in Jamaica or been a common sight here. They are a fairly recent invasive species and a very successful one.

This article by Wayne J. Arendt – “Range Expansion of the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) in the Greater Caribbean Basin” – gives more information about the advent of egrets in the Caribbean:

Abstract

The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) was first reported in the Greater Caribbean Basin from Old Providence Island in 1933. It was not reported again from the region until 1944, when an individual was sighted in Aruba, Southern Netherlands Antilles. Within 4 years, the species was reported in Puerto Rico and Jamaica more than 800 km north of Aruba in the Greater Antilles. By 1957, Cattle Egrets were successfully nesting in nearby Cuba and St. Croix. Today, the species is known from more than 50 major islands throughout the Caribbean Basin. Cattle Egrets show strong dispersal tendencies and migratory behavior. The first Cattle Egrets to reach the Caribbean islands were probably migratory individuals. Rapid range expansion in the Caribbean and throughout the neotropics was concomitant with increased animal husbandry and intense agricultural practices, including irrigation and burning regimes. The success of the Cattle Egret in the Caribbean region is also attributed to its high reproductive rate, exponential population growth, extended breeding seasons, and few vertebrate predators, owing to the region’s insularity.

And it’s not only in the Caribbean that egrets have been successful. In this article – How Egrets Took Over the World – Justine E. Hausheer discusses the fact that “In the past 150 years, cattle egrets have self-populated nearly every continent on earth” but says “Just how, and why, remains somewhat of a mystery.”

Hausheer says “These birds are so closely associated with their mammalian foraging friends that one birder I know refers to cows as ‘cattle egret attractant devices.’ And while most birders will see cattle egrets with cattle, they’re quite happy to follow any large, herding mammal, whether it be cows, wildebeest, or elephants.” 

Cattle egrets originated in tropical Africa but can now be seen in almost everywhere in the world. “And while it may seem like they have nowhere else to go, vagrants are still turning up in Alaska and offshore Antarctic Islands.”

So back to Jamaica and the UWI (Mona) campus, where I photographed these egrets…

…that weren’t following a large herding animal, but rather a ride on lawn mower. It was stirring up the insects in the grass just as well as hooves.

Gaulin…Bubulcus ibis…cattle egret…

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350 Words or Less: A Picture Worth Some Number of Words…

While on Twitter today, I saw a photo attached to a Ministry of Health & Wellness tweet…

…that I thought was worth some number of words, if not a thousand. Here it is…

L to R : Minister Chris Tufton, Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan, Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, Professor Peter Figueroa, Dr Joy St. John

It was taken on September 15, 2022, at the opening ceremony of the recently held 66th Health Research Conference of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which took place in Jamaica.

Note who in the front row are wearing masks and who are not.

Wearing masks: National Epidemiologist, Professor of Public Health, Epidemiology & HIV/AIDS at the University of the West Indies, Executive Director of Caribbean Public Health Agency

Not wearing masks: Minister of Health & Wellness, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Wellness

Interesting.


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That Tree at UTech…

There are many beautiful trees on the University of Technology (UTech) campus and one of the most beautiful is the iconic elephant ear tree in front of the Faculty of the Built Environment (FOBE)…

It is clear that the tree was taken into consideration when the building was designed…

Picture taken from FOBE website, 2022-2023 Orientation video

…which was very appropriate for a building that would house the Caribbean School of Architecture and the School of Building and Land Management.

The tree and the building are in close contact…

…on the upper floors.

It is a wonderful, spreading tree…

…with an impressive trunk…
…solid branches…

…and masses of such delicate leaves….

The pods under the tree show why these trees are called elephant ear trees (Enterolobium cyclocarpum). The oldest tree at Hope Gardens is an elephant ear tree that is more than 200 years old. I wonder how old this tree is.

A beautiful sight/site, whether you look in towards it…

…or out from under it….
That venerable tree at UTech must have been witness to so much change over time. May it stand for many more years!


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Once Upon a Sunset…

Leave me alone, please! Yes, yes, sunset photos are a dime a dozen. But watching the sun set is one of the things I love to do. Taking photos of the sunset sky is another thing I love to do. And sharing sunset photos is something else that I love to do. So…

Once upon a sunset, a woman noticed the evening light against a cluster of palms….

She grabbed her camera and climbed the stairs to the roof of her house. From that vantage point, she saw the sunset sky…

She smiled…and looked closer…click…

She played with the zoom on her camera and looked at the trees, the hills, the clouds, the light…

From speakers somewhere nearby, oldies but goodies were playing. John Holt was singing: “I love you, darling, and that’s no lie, oh-oh, Stick by me and I’ll stick by you…”

Once upon a sunset, on a roof in Kingston, Jamaica, life felt really good….


Cloudy Sunset

Every sunset different. Three hundred and sixty-five of them every year and every one of them different. And then consider all the different places from which you can view the same sunset…different geographical locations, different elevations, seaside, city centre, middle of a field on a plain…different, different, different.

A cloudy sunset, seen from up in the Blue Mountains, looking down towards Kingston…

…as the sun disappears and night falls.


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A Night of Moon Gazing – #LunarEclipse2022

There was a total eclipse of the moon last night (Sunday, May 15, 2022), which was visible to us here in Jamaica. I love staring at the night sky and decided to watch the eclipse of this Super Flower Blood Moon. Wonderful name!

The sky was very overcast, which wasn’t promising, but I got this clear picture of the full moon early on.

Clouds kept obscuring the moon…

…at times almost completely blocking it out.

However, every so often, there was a break in the clouds and there was a clear view of the shadow covering more…

…and more of the moon.

Sometimes I could see the shadow encroaching, even though the clouds…

…until there was only a sliver of the moonlight still visible.

And then, total eclipse…

In this photo that I took at about ten minutes before midnight, the shadow was just beginning to lift. Look at that beautiful coppery red colour!

A little less shadow, a little more light.

A lot less shadow, a lot more light.

Until finally, the full moon was back, in all her glory! Beautiful in all her phases, be they monthly cycles or short shadows of an eclipse.

My almost five hours of moon gazing ended after 1:00am. Well-spent hours.


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Bird & Old Man’s Beard at Sunset

There was a time when once a week I did a blog post consisting of a photograph and a few words. It was in response to an online photo challenge. I really enjoyed the practice but when the photo challenge ended, my weekly photo post ended too. I’ve sometimes thought about reviving it. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But just for today, here’s a photo and a few words…

A bird and a plant called Old Man’s Beard…on wires…at sunset…a view from a window of my house….


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And 2022 Begins…

It’s a ritual I have grown to enjoy in recent years…going up on my roof and watching some combination of the sun or moon rising or setting on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s Day. Often I am drinking a cup of tea as I watch and reflect.

On December 31, 2021, I watched the sun set…on a particularly challenging year…

That night from the roof, I watched fireworks, as I have for many years now. There were a lot this year, far more than last year, when we had a 10 p.m. Covid curfew and stricter gathering restrictions. This year the curfew was 1 a.m.

Having gone to bed late, I set my alarm to make sure that I woke up to catch sunrise New Year’s morning. I made a cup of tea and climbed the stairs to the roof, in search of the sun. Instead I found the thinnest of crescent moons under a low bank of red clouds! It was an immense and beautiful surprise and felt like such a gift!

I watched as the sky lightened and the moon faded…a fainter and fainter line of light, which I could only see because I knew it was there and I knew where to look…

Eventually the moon disappeared from sight and the sun came up from over the hill…shining through an ackee tree…

I’ve been thinking a lot about things we might see, if we knew they were there and knew where to look. Like the doves sitting in that ackee tree, in the picture above…

Happy New Year!